Babson’s Pioneering Women

To be one of the first women students attending Babson in the 1960s and 1970s took an enormous amount of courage and drive. These women knew they’d be under a very bright spotlight.

In the summer issue of Babson Magazine, six women who were among the first undergraduate and MBA graduates at Babson share their memories of being at the College, and here they reveal a bit more. At Babson’s Centennial Celebration, some of the women from the first 10 years of graduating classes will return to campus for a Pioneering Women of Babson event with the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Ellen Monahan Saliba ’74, MBA’80

“I commuted my first year, but (then) 20 of us lived on the third floor of Park Manor South. Doors at either end of the floor had big locks on them, so the parents were happy. I actually wrote an article in the Babson Free Press about where to find the ladies rooms on campus. They were few and far between.

“We quickly got involved in the school. Lots of opportunities were offered to us and taken by us. We moved the school forward. It created a culture that opened up the way things had been. Fifty years later, the undergraduate school is 50 percent women. Some little nugget of what we did caught on and flourished.”

Anne McCormick Heller ’70

“They told me that they were hoping for 50 women in the first class. When I got there in the fall of 1968 for orientation, there was a big crowd in Knight Auditorium. There were lots of women. But, then we went to our first student meeting, I saw that all those women left. They were sisters and girlfriends of students. My first thought was, there must have been a different orientation I was supposed to be at. I was dismayed.

“I was so pleased in 2018 when Babson had a female president, a female chair of the board, and a female president of the alumni association. It was very, very exciting. That was beyond anything anyone could have imagined in 1968. It was pretty amazing.”

Phyllis Speen ’74

“There was so much going on at the time, on and off campus: Vietnam protests, women’s lib marches, etc. In general, there was a lot being pioneered and forged. One thing that I think you’ll see as a common thread among the co-eds of Babson was that they were all active and in leadership roles. We started a lot of different programs on campus. Academically, the girls were the higher achievers! We were leaders and doers.”

Carolyn Levosky MBA’69

“Do I feel proud to be the first woman with an MBA? The short answer is yes, I am proud and grateful. It was a positive experience. I met wonderful people who were very generous and kind. I could talk for days on the subject. My classmates did accept me. In the graduate program, the students were a little older, a little more settled, and very welcoming and open minded. I never formally thanked the College for the wonderful experience it turned out to be.”

Sharon Rowser ’74

“One thing that made a huge difference in deciding to go to Babson was that they acted like they wanted me. They showed a lot more interest than other schools I applied to. That, plus getting a full scholarship, helped me make the decision. Someone mentioned that they thought it was an all-male school. I went to the library to look it up, and I remember that the material said: men, 800; women, 0. I wrote a letter to the College saying that it looked like it was only men at the school, and they said they had made a decision to become co-ed.”

Read more insights from some of the first women at Babson College in the summer issue of Babson Magazine.


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